May 9, 2009

Electronic voting machine flaw

"Flaw found in electronic voting machines,", Darryl R. Isherwood, May 3, 2009:

When 197 absentee votes disappeared from an electronic voting machine in California, officials were baffled. When the machine's log showed no trace of the votes -- neither cast nor erased -- they were shocked, even angry.

The company that sells the machines said the vote-counting software in the California machines was flawed and would be fixed in a newer version. Outside California, no problems involving actual reports have been reported.

But Premier Election Solutions' search for California's problem uncovered a potentially more troubling flaw in every version of the company's software, which also is used in machines in Lehigh and eight other Pennsylvania counties. The affected machines scan paper ballots -- generally absentee votes -- and upload them to a central server.

The problem: Deleted votes do not register on the audit log in all instances and could potentially go unnoticed -- and thus uncounted -- by county election officials.

Lehigh County Clerk of Elections Stacy Sterner, who oversaw a test run of the optical scan machines in November, said she is comfortable that safeguards are in place to ensure no votes are lost. Election employees count the number of absentee votes and would be aware if a large number did not register in the final tally.

But Sterner acknowledged that a small number of missing votes might be missed by employees and, without the log showing the deletion, might not be recovered.

"If we were missing a large chunk, we would know that right away,'' Sterner said. ''But if we were missing only a small amount, that might go unnoticed.''

Formerly sold by Diebold, now known as Premier , the optical -scan machines as they as they are known, scan paper ballots -- usually absentees -- and upload vote totals to a central computer. Whether the issue uncovered in California affects Premier's touch-screen machines, used in at least 16 counties in the state, including Lehigh and Carbon, remains unclear. [continued>>]

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